Can Effects of Childhood Trauma be Fully Resolved?

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The resolution of childhood trauma is best viewed as an on-going process throughout one’s life. Different issues related to the trauma are likely to be resolved at different stages in life, and, even once resolved, may be re-triggered at times of acute stress ; this is especially likely if the individual experiences in later life events which are similar in nature to the original trauma and trigger memories of it. For example, a person who was abandoned by his mother as a child may find the traumatic response is re-activated if his wife walks out on him.

Therefore, if a person completes a course in psychotherapy, and, at the end of it, feels his emotional difficulties have been resolved, but later experiences a relapse due to a particular stressful event later in life, he should not see his original therapy as a waste of time or himself as having somehow failed. Relapses at times of high anxiety are perfectly normal.

Because of this, by the end of a course of therapy intended to resolve the experience of childhood trauma, it is essential that the therapist has taught the client relevant coping strategies for such an eventuality.

The client should also be made aware that effects of severe trauma can never be absolutely guaranteed to be over and that there will always be some chance of recurrence. If a relapse is severe enough, it may, of course, be necessary for the individual to return to therapy.


One of the best signs of recovery from trauma is the ability to return to pursuing normal, everyday activities and the return of the capacity to experience some pleasure in life, especially in connection with relationships with others.

Another indication of recovery is when the individual becomes less obsessed with the past and starts to be capable of focusing more upon the present and the future.


Seven criteria for the resolution of trauma have been proposed by the psychologist Mary Harvey ; these are :

1) the physiological symptoms of the post traumatic stress have become manageable

2) the person is able to cope with the unpleasant memories connected to the experience of the trauma

3) the traumatic memories have ceased to be so intrusive

4) the memory of the traumatic event has resolved itself into a coherent narrative

5) the person has regained a sense of self-esteem

6) the person has been able to re-establish significant relationships with others

7) the person has reconstructed a coherent system of meaning and belief that makes sense of the traumatic experience and its subsequent damaging effects



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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